Partygoers asking for danger in a night out


Angela Bray

Journal Staff

This article is part 2 of 2 in a story concerning ecstasy use among college students. All students quoted used pseudonyms for anonymity. All schools and class years are accurate.

Within feet of a nightclub rope, the ground is already vibrating with bass. A spine chill sparks excitement to pass the bouncer and enter a territory of music, dance, VIP tables, and people. Upon entrance, the DJ is spinning under lights that won’t pause, especially those long, narrow laser lights. One would think everyone is there for the same reason: to enjoy the atmosphere and music. Or, a club could just be someone’s place to “roll.” Could the guy dominating the dance floor be on something, perhaps ecstasy? What about the shy one standing in the corner? Who is or isn’t under an influence is anonymous.

With nightlife a staple for college students in Boston, one can’t help but wonder who’s on ecstasy and who isn’t. “I love clubbing. The bass, the flashing light effects. I’d love to try a trip,” said Sarah, a Suffolk sophomore. “But it could get bad. Who knows how you’ll react?”

“Campuses and the Club Drug Ecstasy” by Amy Powell is from a study by the U.S. Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Violence Prevention’s. The piece refers to ecstasy as a “club drug,” explaining the categorization comes from “its widespread use at clubs, concerts, and raves.”

“Who’s on it, we don’t know,” said a city nightclub employee who frowns upon use, as with all drugs. Liability is also a major concern.

According to, a service of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), “Club drugs are being used by young adults at all-night dance parties such as “raves” or “trances,” dance clubs, and bars.” Other “club drugs” referenced are GHB, ketamine, methamphetamine, and LSD.

“Essentially, [ecstasy] enhances sensations, especially if there’s lights and music,” said Liz Drexler-Hines, MPH, CHES and assistant director of Health & Wellness Services at Suffolk. “That’s when people like to dance with it.”

“I always see it at concerts,” said Eric, a Suffolk senior. “There’s the techno and dub step scene, then Phish shows. Phish isn’t techno, but rock-based and they play all kinds of different genres.”

Eric first tried ecstasy during his first semester of freshman year. He was at a New Deal concert at the Middle East in Cambridge. “There was a group of us, everyone was drinking. The majority of us were on ecstasy. I definitely enjoyed the feeling I got from it.”

“It’s a feeling of euphoria for a while. You can’t help but smile. Even when the music stops, you want to keep dancing,” he said.

Eric believes the college students who do try it, do so when they’re either a freshman or sophomore. “They’ll be like OMG someone has ecstasy. Then when you’re older, it’s not such a surprise.”

Eric feels ecstasy is easy to get, and said it’s used at parties around Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, and Allston. “In Allston, [the parties] get pretty wild, sometimes out of hand. But you can’t just point to a few people and know they’re on ecstasy, especially because everyone’s usually drinking as well. That’s when it gets dangerous.”

Allston may be known for its underground basement shows. “no, people don’t [do ecstasy],” said a local regarding that scene. “Ecstasy is more for raves.”

A NIDA article, “Club Drugs Aren’t ‘Fun Drugs,’” says research has shown harmful effects of club drugs include hallucinations, paranoia, amnesia, and in some cases, death. “When used with alcohol, these drugs can be even more harmful. Some club drugs work on the same brain mechanisms as alcohol and, therefore, can dangerously boost the effects of both substances.”

With a specific reference to ecstasy, the article states, “Young people may use Ecstasy to improve their moods or get energy to keep dancing; however, chronic abuse of MDMA appears to damage the brain’s ability to think and regulate emotion, memory, sleep, and pain.”

“You definitely feel like shit [the next morning] and don’t want to do anything that involves thinking,” said Eric. “When you use ecstasy, you have to know you’ll feel like shit after, especially if you’ll be drinking. It will be a hangover plus a crushing migraine.”

While Eric has experience with ecstasy at parties and concerts, he hasn’t done the club scene, but knows a few girls who have. He doesn’t feel like club and electronic are the only musical atmospheres in which the drug is used, using a bluegrass show he once attended as an example. “It probably wouldn’t be as common at a rap concert, but if you enjoy the music, you’re likely to enjoy ecstasy.”

Michelle, a sophomore at Roger Williams University, does not personally have friends who do ecstasy. “But my friend says he knows people here who go to underground raves all the time in Providence and that they’re really common and popular. And they all do ecstasy there,” she said.

Justin first tried the drug at a frat party last year as a freshman at Plymouth State University. Another time was at a rave-like event at Boston’s House of Blues. “I’d say [ecstasy] is used on all college campuses. I’ve used [ecstasy] multiple times,” he laughed. “It’s enjoyable, but not something I do constantly.”

“Raves, clubs, dance parties, apartment parties… people do it there,” he said. “The music, the lights, the beat. I feel like a lot of music influences people to use it.” He used electronic, house, and heavy bass music as a few examples.

“When you’re on it, you’re so happy and want to dance,” said Justin. “Party music is geared to dancing and having a good time. Those things are geared to the drug.”

“I think a lot of kids who are into [the club and rave] scene do it,” said Sarah. “You see these huge raves on TV, in movies, in videos online where people are on crazy trips and look like they’re having the best time. Like the nightclubs here in the city and those big parties in Allston with crazy lighting and glow sticks. Everyone’s constantly moving and you can sometimes even overhear them talking about [ecstasy]. In that environment, I sometimes just assume people are on it.”

“If people see other people having a good time doing [ecstasy], they’re more inclined to try it,” said Eric in response to ecstasy being portrayed in the media. “But if you’re gonna try it, you should know what you’re getting into. It’s definitely dangerous.”

He said the powder form (also known as Molly) is pure MDMA if you have a good source, and thinks more users choose it over pills. “Pills can involve cocaine, meth, and others, so that’s why I avoid pills.”

Eric said he doesn’t think people have discussions about the drug. “You just bring it up if you wanna do it. But if you have a bag of powder, and have some left over, the next night it’s tempting to use it.

Sam, a junior at North Shore Community College, said he knows a lot of people, at least 15 and counting, around his age that have used ecstasy a few times. However, he does not know anybody who is a constant user. “I think most people try it for the first time just because it’s something new and they know it’s supposed to be a great feeling. They want the experience at least once, but I can see how someone could easily get addicted because of the amazing intense feeling.”

He has not used at a rave or club. “But I’ve talked to several people who have gone to a rave while on it and they said it was great.”

Sam first tried the drug with his friends at age 18, when somebody they knew had some to sell. “I like it because it’s an amazing feeling that takes over your body and it stimulates all five senses. But I don’t like it because of the long-term effects on the brain and spine if you’re using too much.”